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Trial by Fire - Did Texas execute an innocent man?

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The fire moved quickly through the house, a one-story wood-frame structure in a working-class neighborhood of Corsicana, in northeast Texas. Flames spread along the walls, bursting through doorways, blistering paint and tiles and furniture. Smoke pressed against the ceiling, then banked downward, seeping into each room and through crevices in the windows, staining the morning sky.
Buffie Barbee, who was eleven years old and lived two houses down, was playing in her back yard when she smelled the smoke. She ran inside and told her mother, Diane, and they hurried up the street; that’s when they saw the smoldering house and Cameron Todd Willingham standing on the front porch, wearing only a pair of jeans, his chest blackened with soot, his hair and eyelids singed. He was screaming, “My babies are burning up!” His children—Karmon and Kameron, who were one-year-old twin girls, and two-year-old Amber—were trapped inside.
Willingham told the Barbees to call the Fire Department, and while Dia…

Catholic bishops offer help in Australia's stalled campaign to ban death penalty worldwide

Australia's Catholic bishops have offered the Church's assistance in Canberra's concerted but stalled efforts to abolish the death penalty across the world

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has written to a Federal Parliamentary inquiry, saying the bishops would be happy to assist the Australian Government where it could to make contacts with appropriate Holy See diplomats.

"The imposition of the death penalty is cruel and unnecessary for what it does to those found guilty, to their families and to our society," Archbishop Hart said in a letter to the Secretary of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, whose Human Rights Sub-Committee is conducting the inquiry.

"Communities are much richer when they can demonstrate mercy.

"We can recognise the seriousness of the offences committed but still oppose the death penalty. Our concern for the worth of human life motivates our opposition to the death penalty.

"The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference would be happy to assist the Australian Government where it can to make contact with appropriate Holy See diplomats.

It would also be pleased to assist where possible with making representations to other national governments with the assistance of the respective National Catholic Bishops Conferences."

On 21 July, Australia's Foreign Minister, Ms Julie Bishop, asked the Committee to report on Australia's advocacy for the abolition of the death penalty.

3 months earlier, 2 Australians, Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, members of the so-called Bali 9, were among 8 prisoners executed by firing squad on an Indonesian prison island despite having served 10 years for drug smuggling and in defiance of pleas to President Joko Widodo for their death sentence to be commuted.

The bishops' submission said: "The drug crimes Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were convicted of are abhorrent. Justice must prevail and appropriate punishment be used for the common good of the community when crimes are committed.

"But jail sentences, not execution, are the more appropriate means for punishing offenders and deterring those who would consider committing such crimes."

It quoted Pope Francis' speech to the US Congress on 24 September in which he supported the US bishops' efforts to abolish the death penalty, saying "a just and necessary punishment must never exclude the dimension of hope and the goal of rehabilitation".

The parliamentary committee's website says the Committee "acknowledges that the issue of the death penalty is of great concern to the Australian public, particularly in light of cases of Australians who have or may face capital punishment overseas".

Source: The Tablet, November 3, 2015

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